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Sloan School of Management

Closing the gap Between Strategy and Execution

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Following Simple Rules in a Complex World

Next dates

Jul 16—17
2 days
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
USD 4700
USD 2350 per day


A recent survey of more than 400 global CEOs revealed that the ability to execute strategy was their number one challenge, ahead of innovation, geopolitical instability, and top-line growth. Executives are right to be concerned. At least two-thirds of large organizations struggle to implement their strategies. This course is designed to help global executives close the gap between strategic intent and results by introducing a systematic framework and hands-on tools to drive execution in their own organizations.

Most leaders rely on a set of implicit beliefs about how to get things done when they try to execute their strategy. Many common assumptions about execution, however, are incomplete at best and dangerous at worst. Despite its importance, execution remains poorly understood—for every ten books on how to formulate a strategy there is only one on how to translate it into effective action. Executives often focus on specific tools, such as the balanced scorecard or management by objectives, to manage risk and drive strategy execution without understanding how these tools interact with one another. Led by Dr. Donald Sull, a global expert on strategy execution in complex organizations, this new two-day course will help leaders reframe execution so that they can avoid common mistakes and focus on the actions that are most likely to bring results. The course introduces a systemic view of strategy execution based on over a decade of research and field-tested in dozens of corporations around the world. As part of your participation in this program, you and 30 or more of your colleagues will complete a state-of-the-art survey in advance of the course. The data from this survey will be analyzed to provide you with real-time insights that help pinpoint concrete opportunities to improve your organization’s execution capacity.

Closing the Gap Between Strategy and Execution is:

  • Practical. All of the tools and frameworks introduced in the course have been field-tested with corporations and not-for-profit organizations around the world for over a decade. Every session includes at least one self-diagnostic or template to help you translate the course content into specific actions tailored to you and your organization. The course will provide tools and takeaways to help you translate insights into concrete actions when you return to work.

  • Tailored to operating executives. The program introduces a simple framework to identify the leader’s role in execution, as well as data-driven insights to translate their strategy into measurable results. Participants will learn how to effectively structure and guide discussions that are critical to implementation.

  • Systematic and comprehensive. Execution is explored as an iterative process of risk management, making sense of the current environment, prioritizing activities and investments, securing commitments and ensuring delivery, and making revisions in light of new information.

  • Based in practical research. The course is grounded in Sull’s research, including dozens of structured experiments that involved structured interventions in companies and that quantified the impact on operational and financial results. A state-of-the art survey uses big data to measure and quantify how well organizations execute their strategy and identify specific areas for improvement.

  • Hands on and interactive. The sessions include a mix of case study discussions, interactive lectures, in-class exercises, and opportunities to learn from peers

Participants of this course will leave with:

  • A comprehensive model of strategy execution
  • Data-based insights from a state-of-the-art survey that will help you pinpoint concrete opportunities to improve your organization’s execution capacity
  • Best practices from some of the most effective organizations in the world
  • A structured tool for developing a strategy for execution that is easy to communicate and translate into action
  • Simple rules to embed strategic guidance into key activities while retaining the flexibility to seize unexpected opportunities
  • A series of worksheets to help you translate, in real time, insights from the course into concrete actions you can take when you return to work
  • A framework to identify and manage interdependencies among different parts of your organization
  • Guidance on how to retain the agility to execute your strategy in volatile markets



  • 8:00M - 12:00PM
    Winning through execution: The course begins with a discussion of how a new CEO transformed Brahma, a century-old brewer on the brink of bankruptcy, into the most profitable beer company in the world through superior execution.

Why strategy execution unravels, and what you can do about it: This session debunks five of the most common and pernicious myths about strategy execution based on data from a comprehensive survey of over 300 companies and 12,000 managers around the world.

  • 12:00PM - 1:00PM Networking Lunch
  • 1:00PM - 5:00PM

Leading for execution: In this highly interactive session, we introduce a simple framework to identify the leader’s role in execution. Based on short videos and discussions, participants will assess their current strengths and weaknesses and identify concrete actions they can take to enhance their effectiveness in leading execution.


  • 8:00AM - 12:00PM
    Simple rules for a complex world: This session introduces a powerful tool for executing strategy based on over a decade of research and work with companies.

Strategy for execution: Discussion of the two essential components of a strategy for execution—an organization’s must-win battles and a concise statement of why they matter. We introduce a process for creating a strategy that is both right and executable.

  • 12:00PM - 1:00PM Networking Lunch
  • 1:00PM - 4:00PM

Translating strategy into action with simple rules: A practical process is introduced to identify a specific activity or decision where simple rules can have the greatest impact on achieving strategic objectives. You will have an opportunity to develop an action plan and receive real-time feedback.

Execution in volatile markets: Interactive lecture introducing agility and absorption as two approaches companies can take to execute on opportunities that arise in turbulent markets. Includes diagnostic exercise that participants can use to assess their own organization.

Who should attend

Requirements There is an application process for this course. Enrollment is limited. To be admitted, participants must:

  • Currently serve as the CEO, MD, or member of an executive team running a significantly large company or division within a larger organization, typically booking revenues of at least $30 million.
  • Have a large scope of responsibility, including managing teams across multiple units or departments.
  • Chief Strategy Officers with enterprise or substantial business unit responsibilities, and project managers with responsibility for overseeing large projects, are also strong candidates.

Agree to identify at least 30 of their colleagues who will complete a survey of their organization’s execution capacity. The survey is completely confidential and administered by MIT Sloan.

Companies who have sent participants to the program in the past include:

  • Banca d’Italia
  • Banco Santander
  • Danfoss
  • Medtronic
  • NASA
  • Owens Corning
  • Panasonic
  • Pitney Bowes
  • Raytheon
  • Rockwell Collins
  • SAP
  • Schneider Electric
  • Verizon


Donald Sull is a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Sull is a global authority on managing in turbulent markets, and directs a week long course on effectively executing strategy in volatile markets.  He has been identified as a leading management thinker by The Economist, the...


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